Tactics of the New Police State

photo by Edgar Mata

Nice piece in the New York Times today about the city’s arrest and detainment tactics. A couple of things worth commenting on.

Led by a vigorous defense from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, city officials say they did their best under a sudden and extraordinary flood of arrests, acknowledging that bystanders may have been swept up. Lawyers for a number of protesters say what the city did amounted to illegal preventive detention, a calculated effort to limit the chances of confrontation and possible embarrassment.

No maybes about it! I along with at least 100+ people from my arrest location fit this description. The police made no effort to discern protesters from people just standing on the sidewalk waltching. This was common all over the city on August 31. Had they made this effort, arrest numbers would no doubt be smaller.

What is clear now – from interviews, a review of newly released city and state records, and a decision from a previously undisclosed court hearing – is that the city’s new system for speedy processing of mass arrests failed its first major test that week.

If this is a new system, you New Yorkers are fucked. Their “system” was archaic and designed to be as slow as humanly possible. Everything in Pier 57 was done manually, repetetively and with seemingly no coherent order or process. Not even the arresting officers had much of a clue as to what was next.

At least one of the city’s major justifications for delays in releasing protesters is not supported by state records. In addition, the city chose not to abide by a state judge’s direct order to grant lawyers immediate access to their clients. When another judge gave deadlines for the release of certain prisoners who had been held at length, top city officials repeatedly came back to court to report that they could not track the prisoners down in time. There were 1,781 arrests in all.

Not surprising at all. It wasn’t until several hours into the process that I was officially “logged” into the system. I had friends calling the central booking number for well over 24 hours who couldn’t find out if I was being held.

Mr. Bloomberg has said that the office of Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, had declined to prosecute only three of the arrests. The district attorney “obviously thinks we behaved correctly and arrested the right people,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Complete and utter bullshit! Tell that to the 15 year old kid walking out of Macy’s, tell that to young woman walking down Broadway meeting her parents for dinner, tell that to the foreign tourists who were as clueless as the cops about what was happening. New Yorkers should fire Bloomberg. He is so out of touch with reality.

Mr. Bloomberg said that the city wanted to move faster in getting people out of jail, but that the police were stymied by an extraordinarily high number of arrests, including hundreds made within several hours on the Tuesday of convention week.

Yo Mike! Make an effort to arrest people BREAKING THE LAW next time and maybe you won’t be so STYMIED.

Deputy Chief John J. Colgan, who oversaw the operations of the mass arrest facility at the West Side pier, said each prisoner went through an intricate, careful process.

Yes, we went through a careful process of waiting, milling around, sleeping on motor oil, waiting some more, being shuffled from cage to cage, again waiting, being searched four times as well as carefully watching hundreds of officers sitting at picnic tables hand copying their triplicate carbon arrest forms.

Anyway, read the whole thing for yourself. I’m glad to see the Times actually following up on this. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens during the contempt hearings and ensuing class actions.

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